It’s all very well having a motorcycle that can go fast, but if it takes a long time getting there, it’s not particularly useful; having a bike with huge horsepower stats is great, but if it weighs a ton then it makes the power irrelevant – and that’s where the all-important power to weight ratio comes in to play. Motorcycles offer the best bang for buck in the industry, with some superb power to weight statistics on offer, but what bike offers the best performance in terms of power to weight?
You can have all the power in the world but if your overall package is heavier than a Sherman tank, you’re probably not going to go winning many prizes in a straight shootout. Think of the big American-made Boss Hoss LS3 SS behemoth: powered by a 6200cc V8 engine with a phenomenal 445 horses available, you’d think it would be an acceleration demon – but then you learn that it weighs a bulky 483 kg (1065 lbs!), and you do the math, realizing that the power to weight ratio is a paltry 0.911 hp per kilo, making it perform worse than your average superbike.
Similarly, we’ve seen bigger engine’d motorcycles like the Dodge Viper V10-engine bike built by Allen Millyard (Ed: Technically, it’s a production bike, so it’s worth talking about). Boasting a completely unnecessary 500 hp, the whole package gets a power to weight ratio score of only 0.919 – again, making it worse than the vast majority of stock, standard, vanilla superbikes that you can buy straight off the shelf.
Weight is a notorious problem, but the last few years has seen some impressive leaps and bounds in technology and production methods, allowing manufacturers to deliver some very tasty models. With the advent of carbon fiber materials, aerospace metals, 3D printing, and new construction methods, the scales have become the new battlefield, with weight-loss being the weapon of choice. And we could wax lyrical about modded motorcycles and custom kits, but to keep things tidy we’re going to look at the motorcycles with the best power to weight ratio scores…that anyone can just go out and buy, track only or not. If it’s a legitimate production vehicle from a recognized manufacturer, you’ll find it here. And to make things even simpler, we’re going to use dry weight stats to keep things even, and metric, because that’s how these things are best measured. So, here are the top 10 motorcycles with ferocious power to weight ratio statistics.
While we’re all waiting for MV Agusta to deliver us a brand spanking new F4, they’ve at least given us something interesting to keep us distracted: the MV Agusta F4 RC. Now, if you’ve already gone through the motions of buying yourself the top-shelf F4 RC, then you’re almost certainly going to take advantage of the optional exhaust kit that comes with it, right? With the kit fitted, the RC boasts a pretty spectacular 212 hp. The power figures are good but the weight is even better. Weighing in at a lowly 175 kg (385 lbs) the MV Agusta F4 RC has a fierce power to weight ratio of 1.211 hp per kilo. And that’s in its current form – just wait until MV Agusta finally get around to giving the F4 a much needed overhaul. Because that’s what we’re really waiting for.
The Panigale V4's 1,103 cc (67.3 cu in) desmodromic 90° V4 engine, unlike the prior 1199 and 1299 where the engine is the primary element of the frame, is surrounded by a more conventional twin spar aluminum frame. The engine is rotated further backwards than other Ducatis, so that the swingarm pivot is mated to the rear cylinders, rather than lower on the engine near the crankshaft. Unlike most street bikes and previous Ducatis other than MotoGP racing machines, the Panigale V4's engine rotates in the opposite direction of the wheels, counteracting the rotating inertia and decreasing the force necessary to change the bike's direction.
The Ducati V4 Panigale S Speciale has the S model options, and adds adjustable footpads, an Alcantara-trimmed seat, a top triple clamp, carbon mudguards, a data analyzer system, and race fuel cap. It also has a titanium exhaust and race kit that Ducati claims increases the power from a claimed 219 to 226 hp (163 to 169 kW) with a weight of 175 kg (386 lb).
Next up, we’ve got the bigger Ducati 1299 Panigale R– in Final Edition trim. Unlike this motorcycle’s forbears, the “R” designation is a bit of a lie, because it’s not a race homologation special like the “R” named units from before. Being 1285cc, it’s not race legal, but it is road legal providing it’s wearing the right pipe. It might not be race legal but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack an insanely powerful punch. As the last of the “big” twin cylinder Panigales, the Final Edition is understandably powerful. Boasting 209 horses in road trim, and with a dry weight that tips the scales at 168 kg (370 lbs), the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition has a power to weight ratio of 1.244 hp per kilo.
The Honda RC213V-S is the rogue entry on the list. You see, while we all wouldn’t mind owning Honda’s customer version of its race-bred RC213V MotoGP racer, the truth is that it’s a little bit underpowered. If you’re lucky enough to own a stock RC213V-S then you’ll know that it only produces 159 hp. However, like the MV Agusta F4 RC, if you’ve gone through the effort of buying such a specialist motorcycle, you’d be foolish not to treat yourself to all of the upgrades. Honda offers a Sports Kit for the RC213V-S which allows it to produce a rather more intimidating 215 hp, whilst cutting the weight down by 10 kg in the process, giving it a final dry weight of 160 kg (353 lbs). In total, that gives the Honda RC213V-S a power to weight ratio of 1.343 horses per kilo. Which is much more appropriate considering the cost of the thing.
And now the first of two Ducati Superleggeras. Yeah, this one is the older Superleggera but while it’s not dripping in carbon fiber and comes with a smaller 1199 engine, it’s still insanely impressive in terms of performance. If we give the 1199 Superleggera the benefit of its awesome track-only exhaust system, the lightweight Italian produces a peak power figure of 205 horsepower. Despite not boasting the latest in carbon fiber technology, the 1199 Superleggera still weighs in at a svelte 152.5kg (336 lbs) thanks to the liberal use of magnesium employed in its frame construction. With 205 hp available and weight of only 152.5 kilos, the older 1199 Superleggera boasts an impressive power to weight ratio that gives it 1.344 horsepower for every kilo it weighs. Slightly better than the ludicrously expensive Honda listed above – only a minor victory in the power to weight department, but it absolutely destroys the Honda in terms of bang for buck.
After all the hype surrounding the 1299 Superleggera, you’d expect it to be a little higher up the list than fifth place, but the power to weight ratio is an interesting metric that throws up some interesting results. That being said, the most recent super-light from Bologna, the Ducati 1299 Superleggera is an absolute masterpiece and scoring fifth is no bad thing. It’s superior to the last Superleggera in almost every way. Boasting an all-carbon frame with matching wheels and a swingarm that comes powered by a beautifully tuned 1285cc Superquadro v-twin, the 1299 Superleggera is the pinnacle of Ducati technology that you can currently buy. If we put it in full race trim with a race-only exhaust, the 1299 Superleggera is good for 220 horses and weighs in at a svelte 152 kg (335 lbs). It can weigh much less, but there are too many variables to play with, because you can remove this and that, and shave weight all over the place. But let’s go with the official line. That gives the Ducati 1299 Superleggera a power to weight ratio of 1.447 horses per kilo. Imagine if it had a Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine in it instead though!
What made the new Ducati Superleggera so amazing was the fact that it had an immediate rival: the BMW HP4 Race. The HP4 Race isn’t like a lot of the bikes on this list. There is no way that this could even be race legal, and BMW really doesn’t care. This is a track only machine that comes dripping in carbon fiber, which allows this German beast to weigh in at a paltry 146 kg (321 lbs). In fact, I have had the pleasure of lifting an entire BMW HP4 Race frame at the Sepang MotoGP last year, and I would’ve stolen it if it wasn’t tethered down – because it is that light. Couple that lightweight (and true anecdote) with the HP4 Race’s 212 hp, and you’ve got a power to weight ratio made in heaven. In fact, the stat is 1.474 hp for every HP4 Race kilo. Now bad, but the price is rather fear inducing at $78,000…and then BMW recommend you replace the engine every 3000 miles…Yeah, that part isn’t so good…
For many, this could be seen as a controversial entry. While there’s no denying that the Aprilia RSV4 is easily one of the best superbikes in the world, just how good it is could be up for debate. The model in question here is the top-tier Aprilia RSV4 FW-GP, and if you remember correctly Aprilia gave these babies a factory guarantee of at least 250 hp. These insane track-only motorcycles are basically watered down MotoGP machines, so the 250 horses claim is legit. It’s the weight that leaves us guessing though. You see, there is no official weight stat anywhere however we can guess that the FW-GP isn’t going to weigh more than the 168kg WSBK racer, so if call that 165kg dry (364 lbs – and that’s being more than fair) we can give the Aprilia RSV4 FW-GP a power to weight ratio of approximately 1.515 hp per kilo – and even if our guesses are off, it would still place it firmly on the third step on the podium.
This another renegade entry. While it has a tiny production run, this absolutely stunning 576cc two-stroke V4 masterpiece from Suter is definitely list-worthy. Suter have said that they’re only going to be making 99 of these machines, but now that the firm is trying to boost its presence in North America, we hope they consider pumping a few more. Why? Well, this 576cc two-stroke is capable of shooting out an incredible 195 hp. That might not be much when compared with the rest of the bikes on the list, when you learn that it has a dry weight of only 127 kg dry (280 lbs – yep!) you can start to get an idea of why we call this a masterpiece. All in, if you do the math, then the legendary Suter MMX has a power to weight ratio of 1.535 horses for every kilo. The only real downside of the Suter MMX is the small production run and the intimidating $124,500 price tag…
And of course, there could only be one winner, couldn’t there? While anything given the Kawasaki H2 designation is awesome, it’s the H2R only that makes this list – the regular H2 doesn’t even come close, and the H2 SX is probably further away than that. However, the track-only Kawasaki flagship machine comes in first. There are two ways of looking at the H2R, and both put it at number one. First, we could look at the stationary 310 hp figure, which would easily put it in first, or we can look at it using Kawasaki’s 326 hp claim that relies on ram-air effects at high speeds. 326 hp sounds more attractive, so we’re going with that. But what about weight? Kawasaki only give curb figures (216 kg/476 lbs) so if we deduct a good fuel weight of 20 or so kilos, that would put it in the 196 kg ball park (or 432 lbs). That would leave the Kawasaki H2R with a stellar power to weight ratio of 1.663 hp per kilo, and firmly in the number one position.